Welcome to October
CHAPTER
14
A Note Numb
Even though Evie had slept through the night, it hadn’t been in peace. Rather she woke up, head in pieces.
Pain pounded against her veins fighting to loose itself from its prison permanent: her heart, body, and brain. The sun bled through Nyx’s window. It yanked Evie from the bed. She wanted to stay, for once, in the darkness. She needed some quiet. Some dark.
Some peace.
But when she stepped into the hallway, she thought the Down Home too loud. Too light and too alive with the Beetle Brothers come ‘round.
She dared not try for the Downstairs though she wanted to see Richard Beetle one more time. She wanted to mess with Mrs. Wutsitz’s makeup, and tinker with Richard’s tie.
The voices rising from the kitchen were too light, though. Too light. Too loud.
“...And remember the time he tried to help Onyx surprise you both with dinner?”
Mrs. Down was actually laughing. “It wasn’t that bad, George,” she tried.
“But it would be down to Rich to offer to help, but make a bigger mess,” Paul pressed.
The adults, with their laughter and their stories would have smoldered her if she showed up there. So she and her darkness shrunk away from the light.
She wiggled the knob to the Attic, then slipped inside.
In the daytime, the Attic had a warm, honeyed glow. I felt comfortably toasty and the shadows were gray, but light. Evie felt herself flinch, pull away, avert her eyes. She almost hissed at the brightness. But she couldn’t. Not knowing she wasn’t alone.
A Bod lied lazily on a bed meant for two. His feet hung off the edges and he stared at the roof without so much as a sigh.
“What are you doing up here?” Evie demanded, startling herself. But if she’d startled Bod, he hadn’t noticed.
“I sleep here,” he replied rather casually.
“I didn’t mean it like that...” Evie said, sorry. She really, truly hadn’t meant it how it must have came out. She wouldn’t be Leila, cruel without cause. But she wouldn’t be Nyx either. Apologetic too audibly.
“I meant,” Evie rephrased in a tone more tempered, “what are you doing up here at this hour. Still in bed.”
Bod looked over. “Where did you just come from?”
Evie flushed, impressed and indignant. Grudgingly, she replied, “Touche.”
As a smile spread across Bod’s face, Evie went across the floor. Before she knew it, she had plopped onto the neatly dressed bed. She’d shimmied into the dent she’d made in the mattress. Then she fell next to Ichabod letting her feet hang and her eyes drift to the Attic’s top.
“I wasn’t in the mood for it,” Ichabod said to the slope slanting.
“For what?” Evie countered.
“That thing called today.”
Evie snorted and the beams criss-crossing overhead seemed to dance.
“Me either,” she admitted. “I haven’t been. For a while.”
Beside her, the fabric stirred so she knew Bod must have nodded. “This morning a note came in the post,” he said. “‘To Ichabod Graves, We are well, but your mother is not. She’s seized again. Won’t be long. Send an express reply with any last thoughts or words. Grandfather will be sure to relay them. Wishing you progress with the house. Your family, the Thornes.’”
“Goodness,” Evie said after a moment.
Ichabod must have shrugged. “It could have been worse.”
Evie tried to imagine that. “No,” she decided. “That was pretty much the worst.”
Ichabod probably smiled but then Evie said, “That’s your family, then? These Thornes?”
It was quiet for a while. For a moment. Then two. Then Bod finally remembered to not be bothered.
“I guess,” he answered, “it can’t be helped.”
When Evie snorted this time, she wanted to cry.
She wanted to cry for Ichabod and his family unfeeling. For herself craving distance from everything dealing with death. She felt selfish for needing darkness— from needing and trying to be emotionally unattached. When she saw there were actually people so passionless, she couldn’t understand it. Not feeling should be, at the very least, very difficult. But the Thornes made it seem like not feeling was just like holding in a sneeze.
“You can’t choose whose blood you share,” Ichabod sighed, “and you can’t change what those people are like. But as you grow, you learn to accept it. You deal with it. You certainly learn to work around it.”
Evie let out a ha despite herself. And Ichabod smiled. They turned to each other certainly smiling and certain of something more. They understood what it meant to understand someone. Someone who was definitely different. Except in their thoughts.
“And some of us,” Ichabod said, really meaning it, “may just get lucky enough to find family some place else.”
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